Kris Lemsalu. Birth V - Hi and Bye. The Estonian Pavilion at the 58th Venice biennale, 2019. Photo: Kent Märjamaa.

Kris Lemsalu represented Estonia at the 58th Venice biennial with exhibition “Birth V – Hi and Bye”.

The exhibition took place on Giudecca 211, 30133 from May 11 to November 24, 2019.

Birth is always an action.

Deep in the primordial ooze, an accidental creature coalesced. Perhaps on some thermal vent deep in the ocean, its crackle of life may not have even been the first, but from that single of original creativity flows all of life. That one quirk of heat (love maybe?) squirming through the sea into existence makes us family to dinosaurs and squids, snails and bacteria, that first weird lost root in the tree of life. For better or worse, that creature invented themselves.

The ‘ooze’feels right. Life often begins somewhere wet and hot, squelching and viscous. But there’s also of course the wet depths of our mothers. From itching desire to slippery fucking, the deep choices and growing weight, the screaming hot mess of birth that each of us. And after that, equally messy in its way, we have a second birth: the one where we invent ourselves.

We’re here because of the artist Kris Lemsalu’s sculptures and actions that she’s made for the Estonian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Birth, life, and death in three stories, spurting upward with a shaman’s summons from the wet depths of tangled pools through the broken music of life and up to an angelic conclusion, the rebirth of art. Sprayed with spiritual ecstasy, sprouting more than a few polychrome porcelain pussies, reaching with a hundred hands ever open and outward, pulling us into life, helping us along, lifting us into the beyond. Between here and there, a boat like Chiron’s, but one that just doesn’t take us out but also into life. Even if we invent ourselves, we’re not so lonely as that first creature, we have the help of others to get there.

Kris Lemsalu was born in 1985 in Tallinn, Estonia, and lives and works between Vienna and Tallinn. She creates mixed-media sculptures, installations and performances with unexpected materials. Lemsalu’s pieces evoke the bestial side of human beings and civilizations and are often underscored by feminist themes. Lemsalu has shown at Goldsmiths CCA, London(2018), Secession,Vienna (2018), as part of Performa 17, New York(2017), DRAF performance night, London(2017), Bunshitu Gallery, Tokyo (2015), Ferdinand Bauman Gallery, Prague (2015) and is represented by Koppe Astner, Glasgow and Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn.

Among the writers, artists, curators and friends Lemsalu invited collaborate with her on the exhibition include Andrew Berardini (1982, based in Los Angeles) a writer of quasi-essayistic prose poems about permeability between fiction and reality; Tamara Luuk (1952, based in Tallinn) who has been Kris´ friend and collaborator for a long time, currently working as the contemporary art curator at Tallinn Art Hall, Irene Campolmi (1987, based in Copenhagen) whose curatorial research focuses on various performative endeavours that think through postcolonial, queer and feminist theories, and Sarah Lucas (1962, based in London)– artist, friend and a mentor of Kris Lemsalu.

It makes sense that Kris’ totem rises out of Venice, a place where directions tangled up in gushing canals, a crossroads where everyone sooner or later gets wet, where the water that made this ancient town possible will swallow it up and sink all its churches and bridges with a gulp. Hardly ashes to ashes… rather water to water. The world won’t end with a bang or a whimper but a splash. The first life swam out of it, the last will swan dive into it. And somewhere in between is Venice.

New York artist Kyp Malone (1973) has created a sound installation for the exhibition where he has sampled the sounds of Venice and that will accompany the exhibition until November.

The Estonian Pavilion at the Venice biennale is commissioned by Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia and supported by Estonian Ministry of Culture.

Artist Kris Lemsalu
Commissioner Maria Arusoo (CCA)
Helping minds Andrew Berardini, Tamara Luuk, Irene Campolmi, Sarah Lucas
Sound installation Kyp Malone
Graphic designer Aadam Kaarma
Communication manager Kaarin Kivirähk (CCA)
Production managers Sten Ojavee (CCA), Evelyn Raudsepp
Installation Tõnu Narro, Mihkel Lember, Mark Clive Couzens, Tarvo Porroson
Light designer Revo Koplus
Performance team Carola Caggiano, Michael Kleine, Roman Lemberg, Michiko Takahashi
Production assistants Mia Tamme, Kristina Oras, Aleksandra Kiskonen, Geoffrey Badel, Chloé Viton, Anastassia Langinen, Helena Grethel Kask

The exhibition was accompanied by a book, co-published with Mousse Publishing with texts by Andrew Berardini and Tamara Luuk.

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